UK financial services sector has low levels of awareness of forced labour and exploitation, report finds
A report led by Dame Sara Thornton, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, has found worryingly low levels of awareness of forced labour and exploitation of workers in the UK’s financial sector.
It found that nearly half of bankers and other finance staff don’t know about the nature and scale of the problem - nor how their business is involved in the abuse.
The report carried out in partnership with Themis and the TRIBE Freedom Foundation, shows how finance is at the heart of labour exploitation - a multi-million-pound industry - and calls on leaders to take a stand against it.
It estimated that 130,000 people are connected to slavery and exploitation in the UK but 45% of senior managers in financial services are unaware that modern slavery exists in the UK.
At the same time, 30% of financial services employees do not believe modern slavery is something that happens in the UK.
A total of 36% of financial industry employees think that their organisation has no influence at all in combating the issue while 68% of financial industry employees surveyed did not believe the subject had been raised more than “a few times” by senior management, if at all, in the last 12 months.
Dame Sara Thornton, UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said: “I have written to the CEOs of major financial institutions asking them to respond to the worrying findings that this report highlights and let me know what they are going to do to address modern slavery and human trafficking within their organisations.”
The report made a number of recommendations, such as:
- Leaders should set the tone at the top by taking a stand against abusive practices in their supply chains and business activities
- Banks and financial services companies should undertake regular due diligence to check for abusive practices is their supply chains and investments
- Banks and financial services companies should integrate modern slavery red flags into their existing money laundering control frameworks.
Dickon Johnstone, CEO of Themis, added: “Financial institutions need to take a good look at their core business activities, and understand where their money is going and what types of business it is enabling. I challenge any senior manager who says their organisation has no links to modern slavery to prove it.
“There are 40 million people in slavery in the world, so chances are your institution will have either direct or indirect links to modern slavery and human trafficking somewhere within your operations, your supply chains or in those businesses you lend to or invest in. Don’t turn a blind eye - do something about it.”